Playing Beatie Bow

by

Ruth Park

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The matriarch of the Tallisker-Bow clan, Granny originally came over from the Orkney isles north of Scotland with her granddaughter Dovey in tow, to live with her own daughter, Amelia, who had married Samuel Bow. By the time Granny arrived, however, her daughter—and most of the other Bows—were sick with smallpox. Amelia and four Bow children perished, leaving only Samuel and his children Judah, Beatie, and the sickly Gibbie behind. Granny has taken up her role as the leader of their joined clans, and despite her age she has a profound, quiet power that comes from her possession of the Gift—a mysterious family trait that has run through the Tallisker clan ever since Granny’s ancestors were supposedly captured by elves seven generations ago. Granny, in her old age, is preoccupied only with preserving the Gift in the face of a terrible prophecy, which foretells the barrenness of one Bow and the death of another. The prophecy also foretells that a Stranger will come to save the day. When Abigail arrives, Granny believes that Abigail is the foretold savior of the Gift, and conspires to keep her in the past despite. Despite her machinations and obsessions, Granny is kind, good, and warm—so much so that Abigail knows instinctively and immediately that Granny will care for her. Granny would do anything for her family, and by proxy, anything for Abigail—though at the back of her mind is always the fact that the Gift must be preserved at any cost.

Granny Tallisker Quotes in Playing Beatie Bow

The Playing Beatie Bow quotes below are all either spoken by Granny Tallisker or refer to Granny Tallisker. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family, Duty, and Connection Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Puffin Books edition of Playing Beatie Bow published in 1980.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“What’s your name?”

“Beatie Bow.”

Abigail scowled. “Quit having me on, whoever you are. That’s the name of a kids’ game.”

“I ken that well enough. But it’s my name. Beatrice May Bow, and I’m eleven years of age, though small for it, I know, because of the fever.” Suddenly she grabbed Abigail’s arm. “Dunna tell, I’m asking you. Dunna tell Granny where you come from, or I’m for it. She’ll say I’ve the Gift and I havena, and don’t want it, God knows, because I’m afeared of what it does.”

Related Characters: Abigail Kirk (speaker), Beatie Bow / “The little furry girl” (speaker), Granny Tallisker
Page Number: 38-39
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Do you have a good or a bad feeling about him, poor bairn?”

Granny sighed. “I hae no clear feelings any more, Dovey. They're as mixed up as folk in fog.”

“But you've no doubt that this little one here is the Stranger?”

The two women spoke in whispers, but Abigail heard them, for the night was almost silent. There was no sound of traffic except a dray's wheels rolling like distant thunder over the cobbles at the docks. She could hear the waves breaking on the rocks of Dawes Point and Walsh Bay.

“Aye, when I first saw her I had a flash, clear as it was when I was a lass. Poor ill-favoured little yellow herring of a thing. But still, it came to me then, she was the Stranger that would save the Gift for the family.”

Abigail was so indignant at the description of herself that she almost opened her eyes.

“And then there was the gown, forebye. I swear, Granny, I almost fainted when I set eyes on it. The very pattern that we worked out between us!”

“And not a needle lifted to it yet,” said Granny.

Related Characters: Granny Tallisker (speaker), Dorcas “Dovey” Tallisker (speaker), Abigail Kirk, Gibbie Bow
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

The first thing was their kindness. How amazingly widespread it was. […] They had taken responsibility for her, nursed and clothed her. Someone had given up her bed, probably Beatie; no one had complained when she was snappish and rude about Dovey's best clothes, about the lack of sanitation; no one had condemned her unsympathetic attitude towards Gibbie.

“I'm not kind,” said Abigail with a sickish surprise. “Look how I went on with Mum when she said she wanted us to get together with Dad again. Look what I did to Dad when I was little, punched him on the nose and made it bleed. Maybe I’ve never been really kind in my life.” […] These Victorians lived in a dangerous world, where a whole family could be wiped out with typhoid fever or smallpox, where a soldier could get a hole in his head that you could put your fist in, where there were no pensions or free hospitals or penicillin or proper education for girls, or even poor boys, probably. Yet, in a way, it was a more human world than the one Abigail called her own.

“I wish I could stay awhile,” she thought, “and find out why all these things are. But I can't think about any of this till I get home. Getting home, that’s what I have to plan.”

Page Number: 75-77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“I've nothing to do with it!” cried Abigail. “I came here without wanting to and I want to go home. I've a life of my own, and I want to live it. My mother, I miss her, don't you understand?” she said chokily. She thought fiercely, “I won't cry, I won't.” She waited for a moment, and then said quietly, “I'm not your mysterious Stranger. I'm just someone who came into your life here in some way that's a riddle to me. But I have to go home, I don’t belong here. You must see that.”

“We canna let you go,” said Mrs. Tallisker. She had relinquished Abigail's hand and was sitting up against her pillows. Except for her sunken eyes she looked almost like her own dignified strong self again.

[…]

“But we canna let you go until you have done whatever it is the Stranger must do to preserve the Gift.” Dovey was distressed. “Oh, dear Abby, it may only be for a little while and then we will help you go to your own place. We do understand what you feel, that you long for your ain folk, but we canna let you go . . . you are our only hope, you see.”

Related Characters: Abigail Kirk (speaker), Granny Tallisker (speaker), Dorcas “Dovey” Tallisker (speaker)
Page Number: 107-108
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“I just want to go home, you know,” whispered Abigail.

“You're as restless as a robin, child,” said Mrs Tallisker. 'But 'twill not be long now.”

There was a great difference in Mrs. Tallisker. She had, all at once, become older and smaller. Only a few weeks before she had towered, or so it seemed, over Abigail. Now Abigail was almost as tall. Her skin had crumpled more deeply, more extensively, like a slowly withering flower. She could not work as hard as before, but sat more often in the parlour with Gibbie, knitting thick grey socks for Judah.

“Aye,” she said with her sweet smile, as Abigail secretly stared at her, "tis a fearful effort to give out the Power when it has decided to leave. If I could do what I did for you, child, you can give me a little of your time, inna that fair enough?”

“Yes, of course,” said Abigail, but in her heart she was grudging.

Related Characters: Abigail Kirk (speaker), Granny Tallisker (speaker), Judah Bow, Gibbie Bow
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

“’Tis here I live, do you see, in 1873, and my labour is here, and my own folk, and I'm thankful to God for both. So that's enough for me.”

“But men landing on the moon!” cried Abigail. “Don’t you think that's fantastic?”

“Damned foolishness, I call it,” [Judah] said, and flushed. “Your pardon, Abby, for a word Granny would thicken my ear for, but 'tis no more and no less. What good to man or beast is that bare lump of rock?”

“At least it makes the tides,” snapped Abigail, “and where would you be without them?”

He laughed. “True for you, but no man has to go there to press a lever or turn a wheel for that!”

Having failed to interest him in the future, she turned to the past, and asked him was he ever homesick for Orkney, as she knew Dovey was.

“Not I,” he said. “Why, 'tis the past, and dead and gone. I'm a New South Welshman now, and glad about it, aye, gey glad!” His eyes danced. “Ah, I'm glad to be alive, and at this minute, I tell ye!”

Related Characters: Abigail Kirk (speaker), Judah Bow (speaker), Granny Tallisker
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“Natalie has something to do with this, hasn't she,” he pondered. “Because, after all, she's a Bow, and perhaps she has the Gift. And the crochet, because it came from the fingers of that Great-great-great-grandmother Alice from the Orkneys, was just enough to tip you over into the last century. She was right, you know: you were the Stranger of the Prophecy.”

Related Characters: Robert Bow (speaker), Abigail Kirk, Granny Tallisker, Natalie Crown
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

“You would have liked Granny Tallisker,” said Abigail. She sighed. “You won't care for mine, she's even worse than she used to be.”

She was silent, thinking of that old woman, Alice Tallisker, her infinite goodness and strength, and how she had said that the link between Abigail and the Talliskers and Bows was no stronger than the link between that family and Abigail. The theory she had had when wandering The Rocks four years before - that time was a great black vortex down which everything disappeared - no longer made sense to her. She saw now that it was a great river, always moving, always changing, but with the same water flowing between its banks from source to sea.

Related Characters: Abigail Kirk (speaker), Granny Tallisker
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Playing Beatie Bow LitChart as a printable PDF.
Playing Beatie Bow PDF

Granny Tallisker Character Timeline in Playing Beatie Bow

The timeline below shows where the character Granny Tallisker appears in Playing Beatie Bow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
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...due to a childhood fever. Beatie seizes Abigail’s arm and begs her not to tell Granny where she herself comes from—Beatie does not want Granny to assume that she has the... (full context)
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...is talking in riddles. Beatie again urges Abigail to promise her that she won’t tell Granny how she found herself in this world, and threatens to punch Abigail “yeller and green”... (full context)
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...rocks her gently, and Abigail senses a profound goodness emanating from her. Abigail relaxes into Granny’s embrace, and Granny tells Beatie to go fetch Judah. A few minutes later, a tall... (full context)
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...and asks why there is a portrait of her and not Queen Elizabeth hanging; when Granny remarks that Abigail is confused, and that Queen Bess died “hundreds of years ago,” Abigail... (full context)
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...back in, lamenting the fact that the poor girl seems to have lost her memory. Granny and Dovey speculate about where Abigail could have come from. Dovey believes Abigail to be... (full context)
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Judah and Granny go downstairs, and Dovey comes back over to Abigail to place a hand on her... (full context)
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...“Elfland.” Abigail insists there is no Elfland, but Beatie says she believes Elfland is where Granny’s own great-great-grandmother picked up the “Gift.” Abigail replies that Beatie and her family are all... (full context)
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...take her back to where the two of them first met, she will tell Beatie’s Granny where she comes from, and who brought her here. Abigail then turns away from Beatie,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...pretends to be asleep. She wants to like Dovey, but does not fully trust her. Granny enters the room as well—both women are in dressing-gowns. (full context)
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The two women converse in quiet tones—Dovey tells Granny that Judah, a seaman, left to join the crew of the next ship out, as... (full context)
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Granny tells Dovey that she is certain about Abigail—she is the Stranger who will save the... (full context)
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...be Gibbie’s; screams from another room, which she knows are Beatie’s; and lastly she hears Granny’s calming voice, making peace in the house. (full context)
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...and realizes that she is indeed, somehow or other, in the last century. She recalls Granny and Dovey’s words from the night before, and wonders what they were talking about when... (full context)
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...uncomfortable, tells Abigail that her shift had been so stained with blood and dirt that Granny burnt it. Abigail begins to wail, but reminds herself that she needs to keep a... (full context)
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Granny comes into the room to check on Abigail, and when Abigail asks if she can... (full context)
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Granny tells Abigail that all there is to read is the family Bible, but Abigail shakes... (full context)
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Dovey tells Beatie that Granny wants her to read the Bible to Abigail, and suggests she read her a nice... (full context)
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Beatie tells Abigail she does not want to go against Granny, since Granny thinks Abigail is the Stranger, and wants to keep her around. Abigail tells... (full context)
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...of the Bows, and she was raised by her father and his mother, who is Granny Tallisker. After Dovey’s father’s death, Granny and Dovey came to New South Wales to live... (full context)
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...to know about it—if Beatie won’t tell her what it is, she says, she’ll ask Granny. Beatie pleads with Abigail not to go to Granny, saying that all she wants is... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...he goes down the lane. Abigail goes into the shop, where a frightened Dovey tells Granny that she doesn’t know how Mr. Bow got his hands on the rum. Abigail realizes... (full context)
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Granny tells Dovey she is going to go after Samuel, and asks Dovey to help clean... (full context)
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Dovey and Granny bring Mr. Bow inside and help him to a bench. The shop is still a... (full context)
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...Abigail pinches Gibbie on the back of the neck and he runs up the stairs. Granny chides her for doing so, but Abigail offers that at least her method worked. (full context)
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Granny helps Abigail back into bed and applies a healing poultice to her ankle. Over the... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...ship is supposed to make port again tonight, and he will be home. Abigail helps Granny make sweets in the shop, and as she does, marvels at how quickly not only... (full context)
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After Beatie has gone off to school and Granny and Dovey leave Abigail alone in the shop with the absent-minded Mr. Bow, Abigail seizes... (full context)
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...sockets. Abigail is terrified, and almost all she can think to do is silently beg Granny, who has the Gift, to help her. Abigail finally gets the window open, and sees... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...last. Abigail asks Judah how he knew where she was—he tells her that it was Granny who told him. (full context)
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...takes Abigail upstairs and lays her down on her own bed. He asks Dovey how Granny is doing, and Dovey replies that she is “low.” Abigail tries to ask what is... (full context)
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...“innocent as she was when she came to [the family’s] care.” Abigail asks Dovey how Granny is doing, and Dovey says Granny is not well at all. Abigail begins to cry,... (full context)
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...where dwarves, fairies, and spirits often waylay travelers and shepherds and cast spells upon them. Granny’s seventh grandmother was taken by elves as a girl and returned with the ability to... (full context)
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...chamber-pot. Beatie offers to take it to Gibbie so that Abigail can go and see Granny. Dovey takes Abigail up to Granny’s room. The old woman in the bed is “scarcely... (full context)
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Granny tells Abigail—and Dovey—that now is the time for truth. She asks Abigail if she indeed... (full context)
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Dovey whispers to Granny what Beatie saw in her dream, and Granny exclaims that it is the first part... (full context)
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Abigail expresses her distaste for Granny’s talking about her family as if they are only pawns in some superstitious game. Abigail... (full context)
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...she was flung into the past—but then she remembers the conversation she heard Dovey and Granny having the first night she arrived, about the pattern they’d designed but not yet sewn.... (full context)
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...is cruel—having known the pain of losing her own parents, Dovey is still conspiring with Granny to keep Abigail from hers. Dovey confesses that she lied to Abigail—the dress was not... (full context)
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Abigail returns to Granny’s room and demands that Granny verify Dovey’s claim. Granny tells Abigail that when Abigail has... (full context)
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Abigail asks Granny why, if she herself has the Gift, she cannot see what is to come—Granny replies... (full context)
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...As she mounts the stairs to the attic, she is chilled by the fact that Granny answered a question she had not voiced aloud. Abigail goes over to the window, and... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Abigail decides to not grow silent and distraught, and asks Granny how she can help around the house and the shop. Granny embraces Abigail and confesses... (full context)
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...not remember much—his wound and resulting illness marred his memory, and he confesses that without Granny and Dovey he does not want to think about what would become of him. Abigail... (full context)
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Abigail has noticed a change in Granny—she has become older and smaller in the weeks since Abigail’s attempt at escape. She sits... (full context)
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Dovey’s bad leg acts up in the rain, so she moves upstairs to Granny’s room where Granny—who still has a bit of the healing touch—can attend to her. Beatie... (full context)
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...be the one to break Beatie’s head. Beatie vindictively tells Abigail that no matter what, Granny, with her Gift, will know. Abigail says she’s going to see Granny right away. (full context)
Chapter 9
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Abigail enters Granny’s room, where Granny is sitting in a chair. Granny puts aside her knitting and tells... (full context)
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Abigail looks into Granny’s eyes and hears Granny’s voice, far away—when she looks down at herself, she is in... (full context)
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Granny tells Abigail that she must know now, through the vision, that the young can experience... (full context)
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...the kitchen table washing potatoes. When Beatie comes out of the parlor after speaking with Granny, she is sniveling, and tells Abigail that Granny has charged her with being kind to... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...runs toward the shop, and Beatie follows her. The inside is full of smoke, and Granny is beating at the flames with a wet sack. Beatie yells for a group of... (full context)
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Abigail tells Beatie to help Granny outside—Abigail herself will go up and save Dovey. She finds Dovey trying to drag the... (full context)
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...is under control, but the shop is gone. Abigail feels weak and faint. She spots Granny, Dovey, and Beatie across the street and urges Gibbie to run to them. Abigail then... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...bravery in saving everyone from the fire. The constables bring back Mr. Bow, and tell Granny that though they won’t write him up this time, his spells and violent episodes need... (full context)
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Granny tells Abigail that she has at last done what she was sent to do—she saved... (full context)
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Granny tells Abigail that it must be Beatie alone who accompanies her back to the place... (full context)
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...she enters the lobby, she realizes that she is still wearing Dovey’s wool stockings and Granny’s shoes. The key to her own apartment is pinned inside her green dress, and she... (full context)
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...over a leather-bound book. Beatie is dressed in black mourning clothes, and Abigail wonders whether Granny or Gibbie has died. The dream shifts again, and Abigail is on a ship—she sees... (full context)
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...where she folds it up and places it in the drawer with Dovey’s stockings and Granny’s shoes.  (full context)
Chapter 12
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...She reaches into her dresser drawer and pulls out the crochet. She speaks aloud to Granny, begging her to warn Judah. The crochet is very damaged, though, and as she tries... (full context)
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The scene begins to lose its color and fade. Abigail sees Granny look around searchingly for a moment, as if she has heard something, but it is... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...Bow, he says, and is perhaps in possession of the legendary Gift. Abigail realizes that Granny’s Prophecy was right in some ways and wrong in others—Granny assumed that Gibbie would die... (full context)
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...he knows her—wasn’t barren—she had a child named Judith, but it died alongside Dovey and Granny during a smallpox outbreak. Abigail marvels aloud that getting Gibbie out of the fire, more... (full context)
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Abigail spends a quiet moment thinking about Granny Tallisker and her “infinite goodness and strength.” Abigail sees now, too, that time is not... (full context)